PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Robert Bowers will be going on trial next year on charges of killing 11 people and wounding several police officers at the Tree of Life Synagogue three years ago this month.
But in a hearing Wednesday, his defense is trying to keep the jury from hearing some anti-Semitic statement Bowers allegedly made that day.
Bowers faces federal hate crime charges which carry the death penalty and his defense is trying hard to keep these statements out of court.
Bowers defense team headed by attorney Judy Clarke arrived at court for a second day determined to suppress — or keep a jury from hearing — 911 transmissions from October 27, 2018.
"Suspect keeps talking about all these Jews need to die. We're still communicating with him," a tape says.
A parade of Pittsburgh SWAT team members — including Officer Michael Saldutti — took the stand, each testifying to their role in two separate gun battles with the gunman to eventually force his surrender. Each said the gunman made unprovoked anti-Semitic statements as he crawled to them, including "the Jews are killing our people and our children. I had to do this."
The defense questioned the officers on Bowers' physical and mental state, making the case that he was in pain and may not have been in control of his thoughts. They also questioned whether the statements were coerced and noted Bowers had not been read his Miranda rights before making them.
But each officer said they were engaged in a continuing critical scene worried about the possibility of another shooter in the building and explosives. Despite being in pain from two gunshot wounds they said Bowers was calm and lucid.
But in trying to suppress the comments, defense questioning brought new ones to light, including one officer testifying to Bowers speaking about HIAS — The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society — which in a post prior to the attack Bowers accused of bringing "invaders" into the country.
"HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw the optics. I'm going in," the post read.
The hearing has wrapped up and it will likely be another two months before Judge Donetta Ambrose rules on whether these statements will be admissible in court. The judge would like to go to trial in the late winter or early spring.
Bowers is accused of a federal hate crime and a conviction could result in a death sentence. That's why his defense is trying to keep these anti-Semitic statements out of court to save his life.
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